We all (hopefully) try to teach our kids how to be kind by setting a kind example. But what are some practical ways we can foster kindness in our kids at home? Below you will find a few ideas that have worked for us. Feel free to leave additional ideas in the comments! Especially if you have teens! My kids are all ages 7 and under. So, I don’t know first hand what works with older kids and would love to hear your thoughts! But, in terms of little ones, these are a few things we’ve found helpful:
- Kindness Drops
We fill one small bucket up with colorful glass stones (we will call it bucket 1). And we start with another empty bucket (bucket 2). Anytime anyone in our family does something kind for someone else in our family they earn a kindness drop. This means they can take a stone from bucket 1 and put it into bucket 2. If they do something unkind, they have to take a stone from bucket 2 and put it back in bucket 1. When bucket 1 is empty (and consequently bucket 2 is full) we decide as a family what we will do to celebrate.
In order for this to be most effective, kindness drops can only be given by others. For example, if my 4-year-old son Zachary does something nice for his older brother, Ryan, Zachary can’t just automatically put a kindness drop in. Ryan has to notice the kind thing and tell Zachary, “You earned a kindness drop!” This results in kids who are conditioned not only to do kind things, but to notice kindness when they are the recipient of it. This teaches gratitude and encourages them to compliment their siblings, peers, and even strangers when they see someone doing something kind.
When we first started this system we sometimes had to help them notice the kind things they were doing for each other. I would say things like, “That was really kind! I think that earned you a kindness drop!” And they would help each other too. I often heard them say things like, “Do you think what I did was kind??” (with a ‘hint, hint’ look in their eye). Even my 2 year-old caught on quickly and could be heard saying things like, “I be kind! I get kindness drop?”
There was an unexpected consequence of this system as well. Because we agreed from the start that the kids could also give my husband and I kindness drops we noticed the kids suddenly grew in their appreciation for the many things parents do every day for their kids. The kids want to get all those drops into bucket #2 so they are constantly looking for the kind things other people are doing. And we were pleasantly surprised that this translated to us and soon they were more grateful for what we were doing, too! It was a win-win all around!
- Kindness Critters
One day, in the middle of the summer, when we were a little bored and all needed a little more motivation to be kind to each other (ahem, especially to our brothers!) I came up with an idea. My three boys all love stuffed animals. So, I told them we would go to our favorite toy store and they could each choose a small stuffed animal to buy. But there was a catch. The stuffed animal wouldn’t just be theirs to keep, they would have to earn it each day.
I explained that these animals would be their “Kindness Critters” and that each day they would start out on the windowsill in our kitchen. And then, if I saw one of our boys doing something exceptionally kind they would earn their Kindness Critter for the rest of the day. They could also lose the Critter if they did something particularly unkind.
This was an idea I had on a whim and I wasn’t sure it would have much of an effect. But for my three stuffie-loving boys it was a hit. Those critters became coveted companions and they each worked hard to earn and keep their critter each day. And there was no greater motivation to be kind than being the only one who hadn’t yet earned your Kindness Critter! But, I will admit, when my youngest’s critter became his “must-have-to-fall-asleep lovey” I let them all just keep them after a few months. But, that had its benefits too. They now see those stuffed animals and they are each reminded of the many kind things they did to earn them.
- Lunch Note Reminders
I’m one of those moms that leaves a note in my kiddo’s lunch box everyday. For now he loves it, and for as long as he does, I will do it. And while not every note has to do with kindness, I try to make sure there are a few each week that remind my oldest little guy to look for ways to be kind while at school. I just love when he comes bounding out of school and the first thing he wants to tell me is what he did that day that was kind. I also encourage him to look for kindness in others and to compliment or thank a peer or staff member who did something nice for someone else. At such a young age this is tough for him. But he’s getting better and more confident at sharing kindness compliments…something we can all probably work on!
It’s the little (and consistent) things that go a long way. Try to find one way you can actively seek to foster kindness in your kids at home. And then, come back and tell us about it!